So far in 2019, there have been two prominent J-pop songs about J-pop itself, at least to some degrees. Teenager SASUKE practically gives the industry an entire pep talk with a song going to great lengths to tell you J-pop will never end (raising the stakes significantly with a line about how “Japanese people will also never end.” Long-running pop group Arashi, meanwhile, finally were allowed access to the internet to push “Turning Up,” a surprisingly bouncy bit of afternoon dance pop. The most memorable line, though, comes at the hook, with Arashi singing “turning up with the J-pop.” It’s weird seeing this industry now trumpet itself so loudly, trying to channel some enthusiasm out of mid air.
Xinlisupreme’s “J-Pop” comes at an interesting moment. It isn’t about J-pop proper, but really about celebrating the “feeling when I first plugged a distortion effects unit into a guitar and the music played from an amplifier,” according to an email sent to me ahead of the song’s release. Rather than embrace the noisy style of last year’s I Am Not Shinzo Abe, Xinlisupreme opts for a more disorienting mish-mash of sound, featuring Mac-speak-like English discussing the grim economic realities of Japan to life as a hikikomori, with Japanese speaking brushing by too. The music is sparse, barely there, more like a mist letting all these combating thoughts float around, with only a few harsher moments popping up for a few seconds to pull people out. It isn’t a direct celebration of music or even a critique, but rather the experience of wrestling with multiple thoughts at once and trying to piece something together from it. It’s complicated, and that’s way more real than any trumpeting. Get it here, or listen below.